Telavi, Georgia

Telavi, Georgia

Coordinates: 41°55′00″N. 45°29′00″ E
Center altitude: 722 m
Official language: Georgian
Popular languages: Russian
Population: over 20 thousand people
Time zone: UTC+4
National composition: Georgians, Kurdish-Yezidis, Azerbaijanis, Russians, Armenians, Ossetians
Phone code: +995 350
Postal code: 2200
Vehicle code: GE

Telavi, tucked away in the scenic Alazani Valley, is not just any small town—it's the vibrant heart of Georgia's premier winemaking region, Kakheti. Here, grape cultivation and winemaking aren't just industries; they're a way of life. With dozens of wineries spread across the landscape, Telavi invites visitors to delve into the soul of Georgian viniculture. The town is also home to a host of fascinating sights, making it the perfect spot to spend a few days unwinding and exploring the serene, hospitable charm of Georgian provincial life.

The best time to visit Telavi stretches from the end of May to mid-October. Summer brings dry heat and plenty of sunny days. Winter, though cooler and occasionally snowy, offers its own allure with the stunning, snow-draped views of the Alazani Valley.

Telavi is perfect for leisurely walks through its quaint streets, lined with homes featuring tiled roofs and intricately carved wooden balconies. It's a town that exudes warmth, welcoming travelers from across the globe with open arms and leaving a lasting imprint on everyone who's lucky enough to experience its sunny disposition.

How to Get to Telavi?

Reaching Telavi from Tbilisi is straightforward—you can take a marshrutka (minibus) or drive. Opting for the marshrutka is budget-friendly, though perhaps not the most comfortable choice. You'll need to head to either the Samgori or Ortachala bus stations, with departures every 30-40 minutes. The 2-hour trip takes you over the twisty Gombori Pass, so if you're prone to motion sickness, come prepared. For those driving, cautious driving and adherence to speed limits are musts.

For a comfortable journey, consider booking a private transfer or joining a guided tour group through Kakheti. Companies like OrexCA specialize in creating custom adventures, ensuring you travel in comfort with the added bonus of an experienced guide's insights.


The primary language in Telavi is Georgian, though many locals are conversant in Russian, and you'll find English speakers in most hospitality settings. To fully immerse yourself, traveling with a guide-interpreter can enrich your experience, offering not just translations but cultural insights and language tips. For instance, greeting someone with "Dila mshvidobis!" means "Good morning!" and asking "Ra g'khirs?" lets you inquire about a price. Don't worry about language barriers; even if you meet someone who doesn't speak English, they'll happily find someone who does. Plus, instant translation apps are always at your fingertips.


The Georgian lari, divided into 100 tetri, is the currency of choice. You'll find banknotes and coins in various denominations suitable for all your needs. While card payments are accepted in supermarkets and pharmacies, cash is king in smaller shops, markets, and for everyday essentials. ATMs are widely available, especially from popular banks like TBC and Bank of Georgia.

Internet and SIM Cards

Picking up a SIM card in Telavi is easy, with providers like Magti, Geocell, and Beeline offering a range of service packages. Check their official websites for the latest deals and information.

Is Telavi Safe?

Telavi stands out as a beacon of safety, where the welcoming nature of the Kakhetian people makes everyone feel at home. While it's always wise to practice standard safety precautions—like keeping an eye on your belongings and staying in familiar areas after dark—the town's atmosphere is one of tranquility and warmth. Avoid causing disturbances or engaging in contentious discussions in public spaces, and you're sure to have a peaceful, enjoyable stay.

Brief History of Telavi

The story of Telavi begins in the 1st to 2nd centuries. The ancient scholar and geographer Claudius Ptolemy mentioned a town called Teleda in his works, likely referring to what is now Telavi. Archaeological digs, however, have revealed that settlements in the area of modern-day Telavi existed even during the late Bronze Age.

By the 11th century, Telavi emerged as the center of the first Kingdom of Kakheti, and a hundred years later, it gained renown as a major city where crafts flourished and international trade thrived.

During the Golden Age, the city remained a powerful economic and political hub. Yet, by the latter half of the 15th century, the first Kingdom of Kakheti had disintegrated, and Telavi lost its former prominence.

The city suffered greatly during the invasion by Shah Abbas in the 17th century. It wasn't until the 18th century, under the reign of King Erekle II, that Telavi was rebuilt. This period saw the establishment of a spiritual seminary and a theater. After Georgia became part of the Russian Empire, Telavi was designated a county town.

Today, Telavi stands as one of Georgia's most famous cities, drawing countless tourists annually from near and far, eager to soak in its cozy, romantic atmosphere of tranquility and peace.

What is Telavi Famous for?

Known as the ancient capital of the Kakhetian kingdom, Telavi is home to the Batonis-Tsikhe fortress, with its towering walls and majestic towers, constructed in the 17th to 18th centuries. Despite this period being relatively short in the grand timeline of Kakheti's history, visitors to the citadel are always impressed by its atmospheric charm.

Moreover, Telavi is celebrated for its wineries, offering fascinating tours that delve into the traditional Kakhetian winemaking methods and, of course, include tastings of delicious wines made from local grapes. Wineries are scattered throughout the city, so stumbling upon a tasting venue while wandering the streets of Telavi is quite easy. However, booking your winery visits in advance is advisable, as they are incredibly popular with travelers.

Another interesting fact about Telavi: it served as a filming location for some scenes of the old movie "Mimino," further elevating the city's fame. The film's popularity has grown so much that Telavi's airport was named after it.

Telavi Wineries

The numerous wineries in Telavi impress both wine connoisseurs, professional sommeliers, and tourists alike. Wine cellars, hospitable owners, the very atmosphere of the place, and authentic design details all blend together to create the full-bodied experience of a heartfelt Kakhetian winery.

Open all year round, the wineries of Telavi invite guests not just for tastings but also for lavish meals of Georgian cuisine, served over several courses. Many wineries also feature well-appointed hotels on their premises, offering comfortable accommodations.

Visit the luxurious Chateau Schuchmann, where spacious villas and wine cellars with oak barrels are set among endless vineyards. At the Kbilashvili winery, a unique venue offers more than just wine tasting—it hosts pottery workshops for making qvevri, the traditional clay vessels used for aging wine. Spend a day or two at Twins Wine House, where you can wander through vineyards, savor exquisite Georgian dishes, and learn all about the Kakhetian method of crafting the "drink of the gods." The wineries of Telavi are the creations of their owners' immense love and meticulous attention to detail. Each winery impresses in its own way: one might feature a wine museum; another offers culinary workshops; a third invites guests to join in the grape harvest. OrexCA is ready to organize a comprehensive wine tour for you, showcasing the best wineries in Kakheti.

Telavi Markets

The Telavi market (Telavi bazaar) is a famed attraction of the Kakhetian capital, buzzing with the vibrant atmosphere of a Georgian village. Here, stalls brim with fragrant fruits, spices, churchkhela, and much more. It's the largest market in Telavi, where thrifty locals typically stock up on provisions. Prices at the Telavi market are reasonable, and bulk buyers are welcome to bargain. If you're unsure where to find something specific, feel free to ask any seller; they're always happy to provide recommendations, showing respect to guests. Even if you're not looking to buy groceries or anything specific, consider a trip to the Telavi market as an excursion—it's quite the sight to behold!

Other markets in Telavi are few and generally cater more to the needs of the local population than to impress the tourists.

Telavi Sights & Attractions

At the heart of Telavi, at a little square, there is an ancient plane tree, nearly 900 years old, with a diameter ranging between 8-13 meters. Capturing this towering huge tree in a single photo frame might be a challenge — its impressive height is equally awe-inspiring.

Once you've captured memories of the gigantic tree, wander down the recently restored Cholokashvili Street. Its renovation has beautifully preserved the street's charm and authenticity, with charming tiled-roof buildings, inviting carved balconies, cobblestone paths, wooden gates, and stone fences evoking the feel of a cozy medieval town.

Don't miss a walk along Irakli II Avenue, a bustling artery in the city's heart where you'll find top-notch cafes, restaurants, chic boutiques, wine shops brimming with local vintages, and an array of souvenir shops.

Another gem in Telavi is Nadikvari Park, a meticulously maintained green oasis with flower beds, walking trails, and playgrounds for the little ones. Just a stone's throw from Batonis-Tsikhe fortress, the park offers splendid city vistas.

Around Telavi, history seeps from every corner. The ancient Ikalto monastery complex was once a beacon of spiritual and cultural life in Kakheti. Adventurous spirits will enjoy Bochorma, a grand citadel perched on a cliff from the 10th century. Nearby, Tsinandali village houses the estate museum of the renowned Chavchavadze princely family. And, the Old and New Shuamta monasteries stand as breathtaking examples of Kakhetian ecclesiastical architecture, beckoning visitors with their centuries-old beauty.

What to Eat in Telavi?

A visit to Telavi isn't complete without diving into its culinary scene. From traditional Georgian delights and Kakhetian specialties to European and Central Asian flavors, the city's gastronomic landscape is vast and inviting.

Start your culinary exploration with local dishes known for their simplicity, rich flavors, and hearty ingredients. Meat dishes come accompanied by an array of fresh vegetables and herbs, while the cheeses and iconic sauces like tkemali and satsivi play starring roles.

For a taste of authentic Kakhetian hospitality, savor the traditional khinkali. Though you may have tasted these dumplings elsewhere in Georgia, Telavi's take, often infused with local herbs, offers a unique and memorable flavor profile.

In spring or early summer, seize the chance to enjoy chakapuli, a fragrant stew of fresh herbs and lamb simmered in white wine and tkemali sauce, enriched with a medley of tarragon, cilantro, estragon, rosemary, and parsley, resulting in a dish that's both tender and flavorful.

Experience the local version of shoti bread, a Kakhetian twist on this Georgian staple, shaped into a crispy-edged crescent. Fresh from the oven, it's irresistibly delicious.

Kakheti's approach to shashlik, traditionally prepared with pork marinated in a savory sauce and grilled over wood coals, showcases the region's unique culinary traditions.

Getting Around Telavi

Navigating Telavi is a breeze with its network of buses and marshrutkas covering the city and its outskirts. Route information is typically in Georgian, but local residents are always ready to guide you to the best transport options. Thanks to the city's compact size, many of Telavi's treasures are just a pleasant walk away, inviting exploration at a leisurely pace.